Jammu And Kashmir Polls To Be Free And Fair: Antony

17 June 2008

Srinagar: The forthcoming assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir would be free and fair and there would be zero-tolerance against human rights violations by the security forces, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said here Tuesday. He also said the economic development of the state was the top priority of the central government and all possible help was being extended to the state to achieve it. The defence minister, on a two-day visit of the state, said security forces alone could not provide lasting peace, stability and prosperity, and people had to realize that peace alone pays the dividends. He was addressing a meeting co-chaired by him with Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad where security arrangements for the annual Amarnath Yatra and the forthcoming assembly elections, slated by November, were reviewed. Antony said the defence ministry had acceded to all requests made by the state government at an earlier meet. He complimented the security forces for their sacrifice and determined efforts which had helped bring down the level of militancy-related violence not only in the Valley but also in the rest of the state. He called upon the security forces to achieve the objective of neutralizing the militants with minimum inconvenience to people. He also asked the security forces to vacate all remaining public buildings and ensure that human rights are not violated in the process. Azad thanked the defence minister for taking a series of measures for the welfare of the state’s people. He said the security situation in the state had improved considerably leading to higher tourist traffic and a reduced number of violent incidents inflicted by the militants. The meeting was attended by Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, army chief General Deepak Kapoor, state Chief Secretary S.S. Kapoor, Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda and senior army and intelligence officers. The defence minister, who arrived here Tuesday afternoon, is scheduled to visit some forward army positions in north Kashmir Wednesday before returning to New Delhi.